In praise of 'slow lifting'

"This is what my belly looks like"; no more intensive skincare; RIP anorexic legend Louise Glück. This is Link Letter 105

In praise of 'slow lifting'
TBT to lifting in my backyard in Brooklyn, fall 2021

If exercise has been defined by one aspect in the last few decades, I would say it’s “frenetic activity.” Running farther and faster; trying to follow the Zumba teacher’s kick-ball-change; even the yoga or Pilates holds were so often about trying to transcend a pain threshold, marching us through hitting one pose after another after another until we are breathless. If I ever took a class, it felt like there was barely time to try and contort my body to imitate what the instructor and students around me were doing before we were onto the next thing.

I loved this piece from Shannon Palus from a few months ago about the joys of slow running, just putting one foot in front of the other to log the miles without worrying about achievement or any particular kind of trajectory. Too often, we conflate “making exercise happen” with “needing to be good and talented at it,” and those two things simply need not be related at all. You don’t need to make publishable contributions to the field of running in order to just do it for a little bit of time periodically.

But when I map this onto lifting, the message changes a little. There is no real dimension of “speed” in lifting; doing the movements faster, or finishing the workout in record time, is not the goal.[^1] But that doesn’t stop people from trying to transfer the values of most other recreational exercise onto lifting. They feel like if they don't stay constantly busy, if they focus on form, if they only do a few reps at a time, if they rest, if they take time to warm up, they are not doing enough.

On the contrary: slowness in lifting is almost the point. The pace can be thoughtful, almost meandering, and that’s kind of ideal. A rep with heavy weight abhors a rushed pace. There needs to be room to find the right feeling inside our muscles, and getting the hang of it involves creating that room again and again with, admittedly, some blind trust that it does amount to something.

I’m sad to live in a time of more and more, more posts and “content” and achievement and metrics that should only trend upward. But I value heavy lifting for saying, in some way, that only this much is worth it, that doing ten reps is not necessarily going to better than doing five, and in fact, it can be starkly worse. So you might as well make this much as good as you can, because it’s all you’re going to get, all you need, for now.

How to fuck around in the gym
How to go lightER, if you must, and/or want to, productively (or not).
‘Going off my birth control has made me a hormone conspiracy theorist’
“Since I went off my hormonal birth control, I have GAINED MUSCLES and I can SEE them and I am actually able to increase my weights... I feel frustrated and a little gaslit by the medical establishment.”

@couchtobarbell, via the paid subscriber Liftcord


~Liftcord Pick of the Week: An empty-nest mama bear named Grazer won Fat Bear Week. Quoth one expert: "She hasn't had to worry about providing for anybody but herself, so she has really made some massive gains.” So say we all! ~

Poet Laureate and anorexic icon Louise Glück died this past week. I started reading this dense tome of her poems over the summer. Here she is with words for us all, especially in these times:

The tragedy of anorexia seems to me that its intent is not self-destructive, though its outcome so often is. Its intent is to construct, in the only way possible when means are so limited, a plausible self… I was afraid of psychoanalysis in conventional ways… Periodically, in the course of those seven years, I’d turn to my doctor with the old accusation: He’d make me so well, so whole, I’d never write again. Finally, he silenced me; the world, he told me, will give you sorrow enough.

A thing that happens to me often now while Googling is that I just stumble upon someone’s thesis (heard a good joke once that no one ever reads your thesis except you and your advisor; not true, I’m finding them on Google). I liked the premise of this one, on Glück, from a master’s student at a Swedish University: that lyric poems are a better way to capture the experience of anorexia than memoirs, which are bound by time, place, and narrative flow.

This is what my belly looks like. Honestly, I’ve been looking back at a lot of ‘00s photos lately, and it feels crazy to say that the standards for how our stomachs look have actually gotten so much higher since then.

Doing essential things makes time for everything else.

Self-checkout is a failed experiment.

An excellent (NSFW) story about Arnold Schwarzenegger at a party back in the ‘80s, via Charlie Day via Danny DeVito.


I need to shout something at teens doing intensive skincare regimens: skincare is for people with skin that no longer automatically does what your teen skin does!! Skincare products with retinoids and lighteners and stuff are for those of us whose agèd cells now only turn over at a snail’s pace, and we have to make deals with the devil and spend exorbitant amounts of money to keep shocking them back to life. (Honestly, even a lot of what we are sold is junk. Chemical exfoliant, retinoid, moisturizer, SPF, good; everything else, side-eye.)

That’s not you! Take those 25 DAILYYY minutes of your life back, I’m begging you. Put an SPF on and then go get in trouble or study for a test or kiss a boy or just drive around in your car listening to, I don’t know, 100 gecs or whatever it is you kids do. You will spend all of your long adult years feeling like you have no choice but to go through those motions, and it’ll come sooner than you’re ready. Nana Casey promises you this.

“I always say, ‘Believe everything a woman says unless she tells you her periods are normal.’”



The whole Whole Earth Catalog body of work has been digitized by Internet Archive. I’ve been kind of fascinated by it ever since Steve Jobs referenced it in his Stanford commencement speech, like a fucking nerd.

How to fix the internet, by one of my faves Katie Notopoulos.

In the riot grrrl archives.

Ten documentaries to watch on Palestine.

Ursula K. LeGuin: “Dictators are always afraid of poets.”

Lastly, a programming note: I’m in the home stretch of writing my book, so things may be a little light around here for the next few weeks. However, I can reveal I am setting the dates for PLATESLAM 2023 for December 15-17 of this year. Plan accordingly! Pick your PRs, adjust your training, and start getting fired up if you want to be included in this year’s highlights reel! More details to come as the dates approach :)

PLATESLAM 2022 highlight reel ~

That’s all for this week! I love you for reading, thank you, let’s go—

[F1] Someone is going to say to me “velocity-based training,”; don’t worry, I know. Also, Crossfit.